“an imaginative and unique curriculum”

Ofsted Report

 Head, Heart, and Hands

The key intent for our school curriculum is to create a positive purposeful and effective drive for learning in our pupils that will enable pupils to contribute to society and last a lifetime.

In order to fulfil our intent the TLAS curriculum engages the head, heart and hands in its thematic approach.  Our curriculum is deep-rooted in a philosophy for education that allows all of our children to have the opportunity to access and engage in lessons that are creative, innovative with interconnectivity across subjects.  Our intention is to enable our children to reach high levels of academic, creative, and artistic achievement and to grow into fit healthy young people.

How is TLAS wonderfully different?

Morden Cottage in Morden Hall Park is a nurturing environment which fosters a family atmosphere. Class sizes are small and relationships between teachers, children and families are strong. From the Kindergarten years to the Junior years the supportive framework at TLAS allows children to develop into curious learners, and creative and socially confident young people. TLAS employs a supportive framework which is relationship based and develops empathy, understanding and cooperation between children. There are no ‘sticker charts’ rain clouds or naughty steps for our children. In a small school the emphasis is on providing boundaries and working closely with children to support choices which demonstrate empathy and help to create a harmonious family atmosphere. We believe firmly that it is important for children develop positive habits through gentle approaches and routines rather than oppositional approaches.

We begin formal learning, in tandem with many education systems globally, at age 6. Our unhurried academic approach works brilliantly as is evidenced by worldwide research. Whilst we do complete assessments termly in literacy and mathematics we do not undertake SATS as we believe that a good education is more than just a summative assessment. With less pressure and more nurture and an ambitious thematic education our children remain enthused by their learning and are ready to join the secondary school of their choice when they leave TLAS.

TLAS has a low-tech approach. In a world which surrounds our children with tech our curriculum design prizes the creative, artistic and the outdoors. Rather than ‘swiping right on an ipad’ our children are to be found lighting campfires, creating a compass out of wood in our workshop and enjoying sport or yoga. We do have an IT provision for our oldest children and they all receive the skills they need to transfer to senior schools. Children need time and space to ‘grow’ their abilities and to discover their passions TLAS allows children this time.

Curriculum Intent

The intent of The London Acorn School curriculum is to:

  • cultivate and preserve the child’s innate sense of wonder and love of learning
  • develop the capacity for independent imaginative thinking and creative doing
  • offer a low-tech environment in the early years to promote the development of the finer senses and motor skills, connections in real time to people and places while gradually teaching digital skills and online safety as they progress
  • take full advantage of the nourishing and restorative power of Nature, accessible to us in Morden Hall Park, to foster a sense of place and connection to the Earth as well as to acquire skills in Natural Science and Geography
  • to provide an intimate, unhurried environment, where children can learn at a pace in keeping with their developmental needs
  • provide a secure and ordered environment with clear boundaries and consistent daily rhythms which encourage full participation and engagement with teachers, peers and learning
  • hold high academic expectations for the key skills of numeracy, literacy and the sciences in addition to cultural, musical, artistic skills (including design and technology)
  • support the child’s physical, emotional and spiritual development, equipping children for life
  • enable pupils to develop moral sensibility with an understanding of individual liberty, mutual respect and a tolerance of those with different beliefs.
  • provide an arena where the child’s individuality is accepted and respected, enabling them to become fully integrated members of the community and broader society with a clear and strong sense of their strengths and areas for development

How does our curriculum help to deliver a rich learning experience for children?

As our children enter into formal learning our curriculum design is such that it allows children the time, space and opportunity to be a in a state of ‘flow’. The connectivity of our curriculum themes and longer lesson times allow children the time, space and opportunity to be completely absorbed by a learning experience and task.

TLAS ensures learning is ‘experiential’ providing opportunities for pupils to use their full sensory intelligence, opportunities to create, be in nature and have real agency in their learning. Weekly forest school and woodwork sessions, partnership projects with Merton Music Foundation and daily access to Morden Hall Park ensure there is breadth to the curriculum.

Subjects are taught in the context of a purposeful and meaningful topic that inspires, excites, and enthuses learners, offering them transferrable skills for life-long learning. The progressive curriculum builds upon prior knowledge, challenges thinking and enables a higher level of understanding for long term memory acquisition, storage and retention.

Assessment at The London Acorn School

At The London Acorn School we believe in developing creative thinkers and curious learners. Assessment is very much part of the cycle of learning at our school and not the ‘end’ of a journey.
In the Kindergarten years the teachers are guided by the EYFS criteria for assessment and this information is shared with our parents at parents evenings and in the reporting cycle.
In our Lower School classes we use the PUMA and PIRA Maths and Literacy termly assessments. All of our teachers are skilled at working with children individually to plan their next steps in learning. Emphasis is given to providing written and verbal feedback regularly to the children and this is a part of the daily classroom experience. Small class sizes and a nurturing atmosphere ensure that assessment in this context really helps children to progress academically.
The curriculum breadth ensures that children experience time and space within a school day to discover a talent, explore, and learn through nurture not pressure.

Assessments administered at The London Acorn School:

  • SWRT – this is a single word reading test

The pupils read a list of words. This is useful at the beginning of an academic year and at the end of the year, so that value added can be observed. All pupils at the school read the same list. This assessment is useful in terms of looking at the children’s abilities to decode words and can also be an analysis tool in terms of identifying where more work on phonics may need to be deployed, or booster literacy sessions offered. It also help us to pinpoint pupils who may need screening for dyslexia.

  • PUMA and PIRA Maths and Reading Comprehension assessment booklets

These are termly child friendly assessments. Easy to administer with progress tracked termly, these assessments provide the school with prior attainment data every year. They provide Reading comprehension and Maths ‘ages’ and also standardised scores. These assessments provide a diagnostic capability allowing teachers to focus on concepts and skills which the pupils need.

  • Spelling test

All children take the same test. This test is often taken at the beginning of an academic year and the end of an academic year.

  • Writing Assessment

The whole Lower School receives the same stimulus and completes a similar task based on age-related success criteria. This is assessed using the schools internally developed ‘Learning Steps’. While we cannot compare this with peers nationally at the same age, it does provide the teaching team the ability to see the progression in writing throughout the school.